“Some people have walked past and been quite offended by it,” says Nick Foley of his new Hawthorn pub Holy Moly. “But we don’t really care.”

One of the first things you see when you walk into the pub in Hawthorn is a picture behind the bar of Jesus emerging from a mollusk – an artwork by Vanja Zaric that Foley has dubbed “shellfish Jesus”. Look up and there’s a glowing, upside-down football field made of peg board. The exposed brick walls are lined in turns with garish tartan, Harvard posters, stained-glass windows, religious iconography and flat-screen televisions airing all kinds of classic sports matches.

Somehow, it works. But be warned that some of the gags flirt with the controversial.

The theme of Biblical references stems from the name, Holy Moly, which was the first decision made about the pub. “I’ve got a very close friend in Sydney, Disco Dan Brophy,” says Foley. “I’ve run nightclubs for years, and he was always at my doors. Every time he used to see me, he’d say, ‘Holy moly! It’s Nick Foley!’”

But then Foley had another idea: to create a “cool” sports bar, with a college vibe and cheap pizzas to appeal to the local Swinburne University students.

With this unlikely combination of themes, Foley knew right away who to approach on the design front: Michael Delany, an old friend of Foley’s known for his irreverent style and approach to hospitality design. He conceived the fit-out for (and owned) now-closed nightlife institution Honkytonks, and The Bottom End in Melbourne, and several pubs including The Abercrombie, The Norfolk and The Forresters in Sydney. To Foley, Delany was the obvious choice for a pub with multiple identities.

“They already had the name so there was the idea of some sort of religious kitsch vibe. Walking past and seeing Christian stuff in there, some people thought it was in bad taste, but we tried to keep it light and fun and in that kitsch area,” Delany says.

“Nick is a massive fan of Shane Warne,” he adds. “He definitely wanted some strong homage to [him]. So we put in a Shane Warne DJ booth; a picket booth with garish lights a giant picture of Shane Warne at the back.”

The sports theme merged with a religious motif has formed an unlikely mix of decor: hockey sticks hang over church pew seating, and pictures of the Virgin Mary sit beside photos of sports celebrities from Michael Jordan to Corey McKernan.

The lure of all-day pizzas for $5 and a 24-hour nightclub upstairs – called Untz Untz – is catnip for local students, but the menu has been designed to appeal to everyone.

Henry Chang (Lucky Coq, Bimbo Deluxe) has drawn up the pizza-heavy menu, which has 14 savoury pizzas plus four dessert options.

As for the cocktails, Foley enlisted former Black Pearl bartender Jenna Hemsworth (runner-up for Bartender of the Year in 2015) to develop a list that spans old classics to new signatures. Every Sunday, there is a “trilogy” of Bloody Marys – three spins on the classic in celebration for “Sunday Mass”.

Delany created Honkytonks’s cult cocktail Rave Juice and wanted to contribute to the menu at Holy Moly. His suggestion didn’t work out.

“I wanted to have a cocktail called the Bill Cosby, with some sort of pill dropped into it,” says Delany. “They tried one out with Berocca, but they eventually decided not to use [the name].”

“We’ve been friends for fifteen years, so the collaboration really worked,” says Foley of his relationship with Delany. “We both share the same twisted sense of humour.”

Holy Moly
660A Glenferrie Road Hawthorn 3122
(03) 9818 3880

Mon to Fri 12pm—12am
Sat to Sun 12pm—Late